Claremont city councilor seeks to block release of records as a police officer

  • Claremont City Councilor Jonathan Stone at a meeting in Claremont, N.H., on May 9, 2018. Stone represents Ward III. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Reporter
Published: 9/4/2020 9:44:12 PM
Modified: 9/4/2020 9:44:04 PM

NEWPORT — A Claremont city councilor has gone to court to block the city from releasing information about his record as a police officer, including up to 11 findings of wrongdoing before he left the force in 2007.

Jonathan Stone, a councilor and Republican candidate for the New Hampshire House, filed a motion Tuesday in Sullivan Superior Court seeking an injunction to prevent the city from releasing further information about his record as a police officer.

Though the motion itself is sealed, Stone’s attorney, Peter Decato, said in an interview Friday that he decided to request the injunction after the news website InDepthNH published a story Monday on the internal affairs investigations.

The InDepthNH story said that in an Aug. 28 letter responding to a public records request from a freelance reporter for the website, Claremont City Manager Ed Morris wrote that Stone had faced 11 investigations that resulted in “sustained” findings of wrongdoing while he was a police officer with Claremont.

“For purposes of clarification, a ‘sustained’ finding occurs when a police officer(s) involved with those investigations are found to be in violation of City of Claremont’s and/or Claremont Police Department’s policy, standard operating procedures, NH Police Standards and Training Council’s rules/regulations or New Hampshire law,” Morris wrote, according to the InDepthNH website.

A message to Morris seeking comment on Friday was not returned. Earlier in the week, Morris declined to provide the Valley News with the Aug. 28 letter, saying that the city had recently been made aware of Stone’s attempt to obtain an injunction.

“As a result of this legal action, the City shall not produce, for public inspection, any such related documents to this matter until the courts have fully adjudicated this complaint and provided guidance on what governmental documents are subject to public disclosure pursuant to RSA 91-A,” Morris wrote in an email.

Morris did not elaborate on the nature of the investigations in the Aug. 28 letter, though he did say that he would release the full reports within seven days, giving Decato and Stone time to file an objection, according to the InDepthNH story.

But Decato said Friday that Morris’ letter “jumps the gun.” The city should have refrained from releasing any information — including the number of investigations Stone has faced — until after that time period was up, he said.

He added that he wants a judge to review the internal investigations to see which are subject to public disclosure. After that review, the number of internal investigations that the city is able to release information about may be less than 11, he said.

“Before the court has had an opportunity to review these reports from 14 years ago, someone has informed the public that there are 11 cases, when that might not be the case,” Decato said. “How do you unring that bell? Why was it necessary to provide that information, which might change?”

The legal debate over the release of Stone’s personnel records follows a New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling in May in which the high court overturned a 1993 decision on personnel records. The original ruling said that public employee personnel records are exempt from public disclosure, but in the new ruling, the court decided that “only a narrow set of governmental records” are exempt from disclosure, according to NHPR.

Citing that ruling, Damien Fisher, the freelance reporter, filed a request with the city of Claremont in June for investigative reports and other information from Stone’s personnel file, according to court documents.

In July, the city turned to the Sullivan Superior Court and asked for a ruling on whether it was required to provide that information to the public or would be violating Stone’s right to privacy.

In August, Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker ruled that the city was obligated to provide the public with the information. Tucker added in his ruling that the city should let Stone and his attorney know about their decision to release the records, “in order to give the officer a brief period of time to decide whether to seek an injunction.”

Calls to Stone, a co-owner of a Claremont gun shop that gave then-candidate Donald Trump an AR-15 rifle during a visit to the city in January 2016, were not returned on Friday.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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